New York Times columnist Ross Douthat was recently roundly mocked for penning a ridiculous column claiming he missed the halcyon days of the White Anglo Saxon Protestant elite. The dangerously racist article used the word “meritocracy,” which should have sunk any semblance of credibility to the piece.
Douthat’s assumption that America is a meritocracy is a sign he’s totally clueless about how this country runs. Ivy league schools like to give off the idea that they have the best and brightest minds, but a large chunk of the students who gain admission to Ivy league schools are legacies who get in based on familial ties. What makes these people successful is their networking skills. Friends hire friends, dad’s get their friends to hire their sons, and so power and elitism beget themselves. The real power of Ivy league schools is not just having access to the best minds in the world, it’s also access to the alumni and their connections.
It took me a long time to understand this. For a while, I believed that America was a meritocracy and the best person was always hired. I used to believe people got hired based on their resume and accomplishments, but people get hired on their connections. As I tell young people, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
The Trump administration is a great example of this. Trump has hired a motley collection of brazen, lawbreakers. The only thing this proves is that if you know the right people you can get hired to the top positions in the land, no matter what you’ve done in the past.
Here are some examples:
- Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had financial ties to Russia and was fired from his job by President Barack Obama for spreading conspiracy theories. (Apparently, he couldn’t tell the difference between real news and Info Wars.) Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates warned Trump not to hire Flynn because the Russians might have leverage over him. Trump hired him anyway. Now he’s cut a deal with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to provide information against Trump.
- Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski was a political operative who Trump elevated to run his entire campaign, even though he had no experience running a national operation. (No wonder the Trump campaign was such as mess.) He was also arrested for trying to bring a loaded gun into the Longworth House Office Building. In 2016, he was charged with assaulting Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields on the campaign trail and later accused of assaulting a protestor. But Trump still wanted to bring him into the White House. Lewandowski also dated former White House Communications chief Hope Hicks. Hicks, a former model, also had no political experience before she joined the Trump campaign. Former Trump staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman said Hicks was only hired because of her looks.
- Rob Porter was White House staff secretary and his career was chugging along smoothly until it was revealed that he had physically abused both of his ex-wives. Even then, both Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly argued he should keep his job. But then one of his exes released a picture of her sporting a black eye, courtesy of Porter. He eventually resigned. (Porter also dated Hope Hicks.)
- Bill Shine was a top executive at FOX News, the singularly worse network in history. Shine also worked at FOX during its worse period — the reign of evil genius Roger Ailes. Shine covered for Ailes while he was sexually harassing and exploiting female workers. Finally, the powers that be came to their senses and cleaned house. Several bigwigs were given the boot including Shine, Ailes, Eric Bolling and Bill O’Reilly. But after you’ve covered up sexual harassment charges, you can still work in the White House. Earlier this year, Shine was hired as White House deputy chief of staff for communications. So essentially he has the same job of trying to make Trump look good!
So what’s the lesson here? You can be a traitor, assault a reporter, beat two of your ex-wives, cover up sexual harassment, and still get a top-level government job — if you’re a white man and know the right person. I say this because I can’t imagine a black person having these crimes on their record and still managing to swing a job in the White House. But in the Trump administration, the only thing that matters is whether the president likes your style. Pay attention, kids!